Inciting Incident

We talk about inciting incidents when we talk about dramatic writing. What launches the journey of the protagonist? What sets them off down the road that will ultimately (hopefully) lead to resolution? When writing a play I have the luxury of knowing the ending before I get there, or at least the gist of one. Life, particularly the future, is unknowable, which makes it scary and surreal in a way that fiction rarely achieves.

In the past year I have lived in three states spanning 3,000 miles of this country. I started 2011 in Los Angeles, generally stuck and artistically unfulfilled, fled east for a summer of bliss writing and working at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center, and settled in Chicago this past fall to confront the next phase of my life as a twenty-something artist.

I feel now that I can call myself a playwright, at least, without reservation. My play, The Xylophone West, is opening a week from today in Chicago at Red Tape Theatre on Belmont and Broadway. (I’m sure anyone who’s followed me on facebook is well aware of this, as I’ve been relentlessly posting updates for the past month-plus. Thank you for your continued interest- the badgering will soon cease!) At home in Chicago, I’ve finally found a place where I can carry on the struggle to write truthfully and live honestly.

This is largely due to the wealth of selfless artists laboring in this city. I’ve had the good fortune to work with a number of them on this upcoming production, and every one has reinforced my no-longer-theoretical belief that playwriting is a collaborative art form. There is nothing more humbling than rehearsing in a crowded room above a Baptist Church, of all places, and as an actor instinctively misquotes one of your lines you realize he’s brought it closer to the truth than you alone could have ever managed. Or a director revealing the power beneath your words as he creates -before your eyes- what you had believed to be an un-stageable scene.

Many incidents have led me to this city and this moment in my life, most of them personal or artistic and probably nonsensical. With any luck, the work I’ve done on Xylophone and its premiere production with Fine Print Theatre Co. will be the inciting incident for the next act of my career; a first step towards an indeterminate resolution.

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